Strong Passenger, Cargo Growth at Columbus Airports in 1st Qtr 2015

According to the Columbus Regional Airport Authority (CRAA), central Ohio airports are responsible for more than 54,000 jobs, $1.8 billion in annual payroll, and $6.6 billion in total annual economic output in our region. (Wow!)

Basically, how they’re doing has a substantial impact on the economic health and vitality of the region.

So what’s the prognosis of our city’s two major airports with 1st quarter data for 2015 now available?

Pretty good, it turns out – read on to find out more.


Port Columbus International Airport (CMH)

Passenger stats are the key metric to watch at Port Columbus, our region’s primary airport for business and leisure travelers.

In 2014, passenger numbers at CMH grew over 2% to nearly 6.4 million – the highest annual total since 2011.

Through the first quarter of 2015 the airport is seeing even stronger growth, with an annual percentage change of over 4% to nearly 1.5 million passenger as of March 31st. Just from last year, that’s a strong gain of almost 60,000 more people choosing to fly to or from CMH.

Due to a practice in the airline industry called capacity discipline, this growth is even more impressive.

Capacity discipline, implemented during and after the 2008 recession, cut back the number of flights and destinations airlines served from non-hub cities like Columbus. It also consequently increased the load factor, or percentage of seats that are occupied on every flight significantly.

So, if it’s felt like there’s been less free space on recent flights you’ve taken, it’s true – planes are fuller and flights are less convenient than they have been historically.

Together, these conditions have worked to stagnate air travel in markets the size of Columbus over the last few years.

Now though, some new air service is also finally helping to fuel growth, with additional flights planned or started just this year from CMH to Atlanta, Boston, Cancun, Dallas, Oakland, Punta Cana, and Washington DC (which we covered earlier this week).

The trend of increasing numbers of flights and non-stop destinations at Port Columbus is also expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Elaine Roberts, President and CEO of the CRAA, said in a statement, “As the Columbus economy continues to grow, our airlines are expanding their service offerings to meet the business and leisure travel needs of the nation’s 15th largest city. All indications are that we’ll continue to see even more air service added in 2015.”


Rickenbacker Inland Port (LCK)

Meanwhile, cargo is king at Rickenbacker Inland Port, located South of Columbus near Lockbourne.

Last year saw significant new service gains with cargo airlines Cargolux and Cathay Pacific beginning direct inter-continental flights to Europe and Asia. This year already that growth has continued with Emirates Air Cargo announcing it will begin direct flights between Columbus and Dubai by the end of this month.

In numbers too, cargo traffic at LCK this year is growing by leaps and bounds – up more than 60% from 34 million pounds in 1Q 2014 to more than 56 million pounds this year. A portion of this is attributable to the ongoing West coast port strike, but even with that traffic removed – growth is strong, based in part on the rising amount of central Ohio products being exported around the world.

While the main focus of Rickenbacker is and will remain cargo traffic, the airport also has a small passenger terminal which is used for private charters as well as regularly scheduled non-stop service to 7 vacation destinations on Allegiant Air.

This passenger service is also setting new records at LCK, nearly doubling from a monthly average in the 1Q 2014 of around 6,000 passengers to more than 11,000 in the 1Q 2015.


All together, exciting growth is happening in central Ohio aviation. We’ll keep reporting on major news at both Columbus area airports as it occurs.


For more information on Port Columbus International Airport visit their website,

For more information on Rickenbacker Inland Port visit their website,


Port Columbus (CMH). Image credit: Columbus Regional Airport Authority.



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